My wife's wonderful sister married a great guy this weekend; they asked me to give the homily at the wedding. I was stunned by the invitation, but also very blessed to do it. I'm hoping to preach 100 sermons by the end of seminary; I owe most of the ideas and a few whole sentences of this first effort to my favorite wedding preacher, Fred Sanders.
"We are gathered to witness and celebrate the marriage vows of Matt and Lauren. Matt and Lauren have been waiting for this day and preparing for it—we all have, with gifts, clothing, food, and music. But as Christians, Matt and Lauren recognize that they are not the main actors today, God is. Marriage is something that God designed, and God today creates one thing out of two things.
Dietrich Bonheoffer put it this way, in a letter written from prison to be read as the sermon of the wedding between his neice and his best friend. "You have said ‘Yes’ to each other by your free choice, and cheerfully and confidently set your life in a new direction. Today on your wedding day, God joins his will to yours and adds his ‘Yes’ to your ‘Yes.’”
Matt and Lauren, God is doing the same thing today; He shares your will and seals your union with His divine blessing. What does it mean for God to bless your marriage? This is what it means: from this day forward, all of your individual blessing, growth, and joy is wound together with the blessing, growth, and joy of the person standing next to you. For the rest of your life, there is no better place for you to stand. Whatever challenges you face, tragedies you mourn, or even frustrations you endure in this relationship, God promises to make them for your highest good. It’s important to note that this is not because you are both so savvy at picking the perfect match or you share some special quality. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he says that it is better for a believer to stay committed to their spouse, even if they don't share faith in Christ, than to end the marriage. If I made this promise, it wouldn't mean anything. But this is promised by a God who sees every sparrow fall and who holds the heavens in His hands. He is faithful, and He will do it.
In Genesis, God shows us three purposes for marriage, and in Revelation, he gives us two promises. The first purpose of marriage is companionship. The only thing that was not good in the Garden of Eden was Adam alone. In one another, you have a best friend, someone with whom you can be totally unguarded and deeply known.
The second purpose of marriage is sharing a life on mission. Eve was made to work in the garden with Adam. I know you two became closer through your common love of music, and you both work now to support students and families. Your marriage will be an opportunity to deepen that shared purpose. Help one another find the intersection of your gifting and passion and the world’s need, and pour yourself out there together in service.
The third purpose of marriage is to expand God's family. He tells the first couple, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Maybe you will be blessed with biological children. Maybe you will adopt. Maybe you will mentor others in the faith. Whatever your future, it is always your privilege to build up the church as you can.
With these purposes in mind, I charge you to both to stand at your post with gratitude and courage. Matt, Lauren only gets one husband. She is an incredible gift from God that only you receive. If you are not the man who sings of her grace and favor, there will be no man, and her favor will go unsung. If you do not create a home that is warm and energizing to her, the image of God that she uniquely reflects will shine less brightly for others. If, when the time comes, you are not ready to lead with your whole life, it is her children who will long for their father. You are the only person who can do these things, do them well.
Lauren, Matt is quite a guy, and today he's committing himself to you alone. At the end of a long day, yours are the only arms he will have to collapse into. Take care of him. Charm him. Keep him on his toes. Inspire him to live and die for his brothers and sisters, and help him daily see what is really good and true and beautiful.
I hope these charges make you feel a little overwhelmed. Find strength in the two promises from Revelation 19.
6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”
Did you catch the promises? Here’s the first one: as you identify with the church, you are Christ’s Bride. It is through Christ that God has shown His mercy to the nations. Christ is our true and better husband, in Him we see the three purposes of marriage perfected. Even after we had betrayed Him, He humbled Himself to become the friend of sinners. When we had squandered our inheritance, He gave us His and called us His ambassadors. By His death and resurrection, God the Father raises us up and adopts us into His family as sons and daughters. Even when you fail in your marriage, you are God's child and He is faithful from generation to generation.
The second promise is about your victory and joy. That fine linen, the “righteous deeds of the saints”? That’s yours. You have been given the Spirit of God, and you will heal and teach and build up like he does. You also have the best seat to watch one another become like Christ. This is really cool.
Now, some practical advice. Until this final supper, the marriage supper of the lamb, learn to love forgiving each other. Do it all the time, make it your habit. In liturgical churches we confess sin and rejoice in forgiveness every Sunday, and there is no age limit to stop doing it. You might confess and forgive every day of your marriage, but do not lose heart. Today God echoes your ‘Yes,’ but tomorrow and the next day you join His will for each other and echo His.
I'd like to close by giving us all a charge, as we each play a part in Matt and Lauren’s marriage. Some of you here know all that these vows imply. Share your wisdom gained through experience. If you are single, share your wisdom too, and help Matt and Lauren remember that their family is but a shadow of the eternal family to come. Maybe you don’t feel like you have any wisdom. Do this: commit to speak and act in ways that build the unity of these two. Get on their team and stay on it.
“Therefore in recognition of Matt and Lauren's vows to each other to God in this service of marriage, do you pledge to support their union and to strengthen their lives together, to speak the truth in love, and with them to seek a life of love for others? If this is your intention, please say "We will!"